What a week of fishing! We put a lot of time in over the short trip and caught a lot of fish. Salt water: 23 sharks, 7 red drum, 3 jacks and a massive stingray. Plus; blue fish, catfish & whiting. Freshwater: 2 pickerel, 14 bowfin, loads of blue gill and a bass.
Saw some fantastic wildlife; watched dolphins hunting, pelicans & osprey diving on fish, aligators, snapping turtles, snakes, lizzards & tree frogs, massive spiders & loads of butterflies. And so much more - I could have spent the week chasing about with the camera!
Just remains for me to thank my fantastic hosts, Brooke & Sammi for their wonderful hospitality and Paulos for his phenomenonal guiding skills (and shark unhooking skills). It was a brilliant trip, and really gave me something to look forward to through the cancer year...
Tarpon: You need a lot of luck to land a tarpon from the surf - the first bit of luck is hitting one about 70-100lb - big enough to run you ragged for 2 hours - but you still stand a slim chance of landing it...
My first encounter with a tarpon was it stripping 200 yards of line off the tight drag in a few seconds - before it jumped - probably bigger than me. No chance! I fought it for 10 minutes before we parted...
I hit two others of a more reasonable size, but unfortunately the hook pulled both times. Then as quickly as they arrived they were gone. You'd think I'd be gutted but I'm not - what an experience to have!
Sharks: We were after a blacktip shark. And it didn't take long before one of the rods was ripping over in the spike - not the target but a new species 5'0" blacknose shark - and things got even better...
The other rod was away and I was connected to a very powerful fish - a blacktip! A hard fight before my prize was in the surf, measuring in at 5'4" - brilliant! Next up was a PB equalling finetooth shark...
We fished on and an even bigger blacktip found a bait - after trying to pull my arms off a 5'10" fish was at the beach - just 1" off my PB! Then a third blacktip about 4' completed the hatrick!
Jack Crevalle: As the tide peaked the sharks moved further out - and we waded out after them - a very unnerving experence watching them swim past you - but great to watch them hunting in the surf!
Despite seeing a lot of sharks no more were landed - but a new PB jack rounded out the session - stunning looking fish. Then as the tide went out so did the fish - we fished on but the last day was done.
New species - a 5'0" blacknose shark.
Target species - a 5'4" blacktip shark.
PB equalling - 4'10" finetooth shark - and a better photo.
Best blacktip of the day at 5'10" - what we were here for.
Bonus PB jack crevalle - what a beauty (about 8lb).
The target was a seven foot plus shark so we headed to an inlet where Paulos thought we stood the best chance - but the water was dirty, weedy and full of sediment - conditions very much against us!
No photo of a monster today - it doesn't always work out! But a little stingray and 6 small sharks, including a sandbar shark (above) and a bonnet head (below) - can't win them all - but we enjoyed trying!
We were wading across the point of an island when we spotted stingrays swimming around us in the gin-clear water (pretty safe unless you step on one) - I looked up & butterflies were flying around us - a really magical moment & one I'll remember for a long time.
Back in the surf today and it was full of baitfish, you could see the mullet swimming through the clear waves. I managed to land two hard fighting jack crevalle - another new species added to the list. And a cast to a passing lemon shark was also picked up.
A new PB finetooth shark was a real bonus, at 4'10" it's a whopper for the species. An then something very heavy picked up the 'jack rod' - a real tug-of-war for 45 minutes as I gradually pulled an unseen monster to the beach - a new PB stingray about 120lb - what a day!
My first ever jack crevalle - beauty.
Jack number two - only small, they get up to about 50lb.
Pibb and shore coconut - I'm ending the Pibb silliness now.
Lovely lemon shark - spotted in the surf & chucked a bait to her.
New PB finetooth shark - 4'10" - about as big as they get.
New PB stingray - 120lb of pure fight - back breaking on 25lb line.
As you can imagine I've really been looking forward to this trip, and a highlight was going to be spending a day in the boat searching for a swamp pike - perhaps a bit of a long shot - but a day in the swamp!
The target was a chain pickerel (esox niger), and hopefully some bowfin (also known as mud pike) while we were searching - links go to Wikipedia. Could we find a pickerel, a real species of esox?
Gear was an ultra-light 4' spinning rod, 4lb mono and a beetle spin lure. There was a obstacle though - the swamp was full of aligators - you had to get the fish in the boat very, very quickly!
We had a bowfin within half an hour - and right on cue a large aligator appeared and headed for the boat! Quickly netted, Paulos slammed the boat in gear and we made our escape.
A few casts later I hit a pickerel - and it shook the hook - gutted! We fished on, avoiding the gators, landing 14 bowfin - including a real monster. But with a storm looming we were running out of time...
Another chance came - but I knocked it off the hook in my rush to land it before became a snack - arggh! But then magic happened - I got one. Never have I been so pleased to land a mini-pike!!
As the storm arrived we raced for the dock - and I trolled the lure behind the boat on the way in. Yup - another one on the last cast... What a brilliant, brilliant day! Nice one Paulos!!
A bowfin - one of 14 of the day.
Monster bowfin - fantastic!
Pibb Xtra - for xtra concentration...
Where are you?
F*ck Yeah - a swamp pike!!
Last cast - pissing rain - lightning - aligators - number 2 - delighted!
Back to the beach - a different island - dirty water and a falling tide. A shark first cast - great start! Over the course of the afternoon we landed seven sharks including a bonnet head - a new species to me. I'll let the photos do the talking - another day in fishing paradise!
First cast - first lemon shark of the afternoon.
Lemon shark - 5'4"
Fine tooth shark.
Paulos catching bait - nice throw!
Pibb Xtra - king of refreshments.
Bonnet head shark - a new shark species to me.
Head shot - the smallest of the hammerhead sharks.
A new PB whiting - not much fight on a shark rod!
Last lemon shark of the day as the sun was disappearing.
After the storm last night we headed out to see if the mullet were off the rocks - bringing with them tarpon. They weren't. The chances of hooking one without masses of bait fish would have been like winning the lottery - an hour with no sign of mullet we needed a new plan...
BTW; if I do win the lottery I'll be back for them - probably with a very expensive fly rod and buckets of time! A short drive away we found five red drum and a 5'8" lemon shark - ridiculously close to shore, in perhaps a foot of water! Brilliant stuff!!